As an avid fan of international football for most of my adult life, as well as a marketing and branding professional, the redesign of the Juventus F.C. logo presented the perfect subject for this month’s Brand New Logo blog. Anyone who watches the Champions League (or Serie A) is familiar with the iconic black and white stripes of the club from Turin, Italy. They have been an unwavering element of their uniforms for more than 100 years.
But what about the Juventus logo? The Italian club has used numerous variations of the crest over the past 100+ years. And on January 16, Juventus introduced a new logo and visual identity.
Juventus turned to Interbrand, a world-renowned brand agency, to develop the new logo and visual identity. Interbrand has created new branding for organizations such as Siemens, Airbus, Pirelli Tires, and the Sochi Olympics. With a reputation like that, and offices in Milan (less than 200 miles from Turin), they were the ideal choice for the project.
But the new logo has many fans crying for a Red Card.
First of all, I have to say that I love the concept of combining 3 historical characteristics of the club – the stripes, the shield, and the letter J - into one clean simple icon. The even width of the lines and negative space between is a clear ode to the black and white stripes that Juventus has been known for since 1903. It is easily adaptable to many different environments and applications. It is unique and recognizable (despite the initial appearance of two “Js”. Is there a second J reference that I’m unaware of, or is it just the shield outline?) In essence, it does what a corporate identity is supposed to do. And for the most part it works for me.
Then I remembered that I was looking at the logo of a European football club. One rich with history, and an avid fan base that takes some pride in the crest on the chest. The new logo is an undeniably bold break from tradition, as well as the “We Must Have a Coat of Arms” mentality that seems to pervade European football clubs and fan merchandise. It feels very...corporate…and out of place for this audience. But is it aimed at this audience?
The brass at Juve is obviously positioning itself to compete for a global audience against other football behemoths, such as Manchester United, Barcelona, and Real Madrid – on and off the pitch. And that corporatization translates visually into a nebulous logo; one whose simplicity and modern font treatment feel more appropriate for an urban lifestyle or fashion brand than a football brand. Actually on the Interbrand site, the tagline with the logo presentation is, Beyond Entertainment. Beyond Lifestyle. I guess it goes without saying that it is beyond football. And certainly beyond even Italy. Gone are the visual references distinct to Turin…the bull and the crown. Those are discarded relics of a regional football brand. Juventus acknowledges this on their news site:
The result of a bold, uncompromising approach, the new visual identity turns the sport’s traditional style on its head and sets about blazing a new trail. It is an iconic, simple design centered around sharp lines and will surely steal the spotlight no matter where it is used.
But appealing to a global audience means sacrificing some of your distinctive qualities in an effort to reach untapped markets. And in watching the launch event, one would have to wonder what the hell this brand has to do with football at all. That’s where I think the visual identity hits the crossbar of an open net. While beautiful, the logo feels pretentious. It diverts so far from its historical roots that it creates a disconnect from the most ardent supporters – the ones that stand in line for mediocre seats so they can drink beer while singing the club anthem. Ultimately, the fans will buy the merchandise because of their team loyalty. Most would buy merchandise emblazoned with a J-shaped pile of crap if the team was winning (and that logo was the official team logo). Global merchandise sales will probably go up, and the new identity will be determined to be a success. But it still begs the question: Is the brand trying to do something that isn’t at its core? And as Al Ries said, “The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity.” Is this the authentic Juventus? That may be a tougher sell to hardcore fans.
If you have any questions about developing an authentic brand, we’d be happy to start a conversation.
*images courtesy of Brandemia and Interbrand